Once And Always
by Alyssa Deane, historical (2000)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-6615-5

This romance is set in India. 1856 India, where the country is about to be plunged into the infamous "epic of the Race" mutiny. Indeed, Once And Always has an old-fashioned epic feel to it. The heroine is often shrill and sometimes act stupid, the hero is larger than life, and everywhere there is strife, misunderstandings, and everything 1980s about a romance. And I've had a great time reading this book.

Maybe it's the change of scenery.

Roxane Sheffield wants to make peace with the father who abandoned her and her (now late) mother in England for India. At first she is aghast to find Daddy setting up house with an Indian mistress and their illegitimate daughter. She also meets Collier Harrison, a British captain in the Bengal army, but heck, she's been betrayed by a man back in England, and she feels betrayed by her Daddy. Men, hmmph! Can she trust Collier? Well, she pouts, stamps her feet at times, and act like a spoiled ten-year old at times, but strange enough, I don't find that annoying at all. Likewise, Collier can be obtuse at times, but I keep reading.

Maybe it's because of the nice backdrop. The sepoys are about to revolt. (Sepoys are the local native soldiers by the way.) And from the way their British rulers treat them, I wouldn't be surprised. Someone is out to kill everyone (as usual), and time is running out. These two better snog and reach the epilogue before war breaks out.

Ms Deane also include minor matters of caste and other unique though not always pretty cultural elements of India. The result is a romance that, while isn't exactly that grand, works. I find myself rooting for these two. When it comes to drawing me into late nineteenth-century India, the author more than succeeds.

Once And Always isn't exactly M M Kaye's Trade Winds or The Far Pavilions, but it's nonetheless an enjoyable, sometimes campy, sometimes epic, but always entertaining romance.

Rating: 85

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